Chandratal Lake: A Trip to Enigmatic, Surreal and Magical Himalayan Jewel
About Chandratal, The Lake of the Moon
Chandra Tal or the Moon Lake, the name in itself is mysteriously enchanting! It conjures images of a tranquil water body settled amidst remote mountains. As you transcend upon this enigmatic jewel of Himachal Pradesh, your imaginations are beautifully jolted into reality.
The surreal beauty of the Chandra Taal lake smacks you in the face, it looks as if heavens have meticulously hand-painted this Kohinoor of nature with their own palette.
The Chandra Taal lake gets its name from the exquisitely crafted crescent shape that flamboyantly nestles under the azure blue skies. The lake glitters like a turquoise pendant against the cold-barren mountains of Spiti valley. It is surrounded by the expansive grassy land which was a glacier in ancient times.
The divinely beautiful lake reflects myriad hues ranging from reddish-orange to turquoise blue to shiny emerald as the day progresses. The changing colors add an element of mystery to the magical ambiance of the lake. These contrasting colors and stark landscapes sprinkle the entire panorama with shades of rainbow that the lake is so famous for.
At night, the moon casts a silver shimmer on its pristine waters and soaks the entire surroundings in a silvery spell. The mammoth hills encompassing the lake stand tall as if trying to delve deeper into the mystery of the elusive lake.
Believed to be the abode of Moon God, the luminous Chandra Taal lake leaves little for imagination! It never fails your expectations rather floors you with an ambiance so divine that you become a fan for a lifetime!
Chandratal Lake Location
Beautifully nestled between the mountains of Spiti Valley on Samudra Tal plateau, Chandratal is a 2.5 km wide freshwater lake that beckons tourists from all across the world.
At an astounding altitude of 14,100 feet, the Chandra Taal lake is strategically located at a distance of 9 km from Kunzum Pass in the Spiti Valley. It is surrounded by the expansive grassy land which was a glacier once. It was also a popular trading spot for traders from Tibet and Ladakh.
With a rambling landscape characteristic of the hermetical Spiti Valley, the lake is a popular trekking location because of its moderate trekking gradient.
It’s proximity from Manali, the picturesque tourist locale, makes it a hotspot for trekkers and travellers alike.
The history behind Chandratal Lake
Touted as one of the sacred lakes of the Hindus, the lake attracts hordes of Hindu devotees to its holy waters. It is the origin of the Himalayan river Chandra, one of the tributaries of river Chenab.
As eerie as it may sound but the mythical Chandra Taal lake has not one but three legends attached to it.
The most famous folklore revolves around the two lovebirds by the name of Chandra, the loving daughter of Moon God and Bhaga, the bright son of Sun God. Both madly in love but as destiny would have it, their parents did not approve of their alliance. They decided to elope from Baralacha La, the Pass where they met for the first time. Somehow, they could not meet there but met someplace else where they performed a celestial wedding. You can see the effervescent Chandrabhaga River at that spot which stands testimony to their heavenly alliance. The lakes Suraj Tal and Chandratal individually created by them still reverberate with the mystery of their romance.
The celebrated lake of Chandra Taal also finds its mention in Hindu mythology. It is widely believed that the chariot of Lord Indra (the revered God of Rain) took Yudhishthir to his heavenly abode at this very location.
History has it that a shepherd from Hansa Village in Spiti valley fell in love with a mermaid residing in the glacial lake. Their love blossomed under the icy waters of the angelic lake. Mythology believes that even today shepherds halt here to look for their long-lost friend.
How to reach Chandratal Lake
The Chandra Taal lake can be reached either by road, rail or air. You can decide on the one that best suits your adventurous needs.
- By Road
- Car/ SUV Drive or Bike
- By Bus
The on-road route has two options. You can either drive to the lake or take a public transport bus to reach your destination.
Did you know that it was possible to cover the entire route to this heavenly place by road! If you are a driving expert or an avid biker, this on-road experience is bound to rock you out of your wits! Whooping bends, tricky terrains, hair-raising loops, and some precarious water crossings test the limit of even the best of the drivers. It is one of the very tough routes to traverse by car, SUV or bike, so one has to be extremely cautious and well-prepared for the notorious terrain.
Again, there are two options to reach the lake by bus, depending upon your trekking route ahead. The Chandratal Lake trek can either be undertaken via the Delhi-Manali route or the Simla-Kinnaur-Spiti Valley route. The total distance between Delhi & Chandratal is 680 km, and between Manali & Chandratal is 140 km
- Delhi-Manali route to Chandratal Lake
- Simla-Kinnaur-Spiti Valley route to Chandratal Lake
This is one of the shortest routes to reach the lake, but not recommended as your body does not get enough time to get acclimatized to the changing altitudes. There is a rapid change in altitude from 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet in just 2 days which can take a toll on your body and cause acute mountain sickness. This route journeys from Delhi to Kullu, Manali, Rohtang Pass, Gramphu, Chhatru, Batal and finally to Chandratal.
One can comfortably reach Manali from Delhi or Chandigarh by state transport buses, AC/Non-AC or deluxe buses. Every season, the road between Spiti Valley and Manali opens by the month of June. One can hop onto the state transport buses run by Himachal Pradesh (HRTC), starting from Kullu and reaching Batal via Manali. After the bus crosses Batal, you get down at Chandratal diversion point.
From this diversion point, you can hike the remaining 14 km distance to reach the lake.Or
From Batal, a semi-motorable road of 18 km can take you to the lake.
You start from Simla or Narkanda. The route from Simla/Narkanda moves to Kinnaur, Kaza, Losar, Kunzum Pass and finally Chandratal. This route, albeit a little longer, provides perfect acclimatization to your body.
The best combination is to explore the beautiful valley of Spiti and then head to the lake from Kaza.
From Delhi or Chandigarh, you can reach Simla by an AC or non-AC bus. From Simla/Narkanda these buses take you to Reckong Peo, the headquarters of Kinnaur district. At Reckong Peo, you take a bus to Kaza. After the bus crosses Kunzum Pass, you alight from the bus and trek to the lake. The Chandratal lake trek length is almost 9 km from Kunzum Pass. From Kunzum Pass, you can reach the lake only by trekking as there is no motorable road.
- By Air
- By Rail
One can reach the lake by air either from Bhuntar airport (near Manali), Simla airport or Chandigarh airport. Bhuntar airport, at a distance of 180 km from Chandratal is the nearest airport to the lake.
Chandigarh is the most well-connected rail route to Chandratal as it has good connectivity with all parts of India.
However, the nearest railhead to the lake is Joginder Nagar. At a distance of 290 km from Chandratal, it is located near Mandi. It is, however a small station with limited connectivity.
Chandratal Lake Camping
Respecting the fragile eco-system of the region, one cannot camp near the lake as the area has been declared Chandratal Wetland and falls under the protection of the Forest Department.
However, there are paradisiacal campsites snuggled in the lap of mammoth Himalayan giants that offer an idyllic vista to nature lovers and adventure junkies.
The nearest campsite from the lake is at Batal. It takes around one and a half-hour of a trek to reach Chandra Taal from Batal.
While daytime camping at this scenic site floors you with a variegated spectrum of colorful wildflowers on a glossy green carpet flanked by austere barren mountains, the night camping under the canopy of the limitless expanse of starlit sky stirs your senses with its silvery sheen.
The landscape is hallucinogenic, surreal-you have to revel in the experience to actually believe it!
Chandratal Weather and Temperature
Located in the remote regions of Himalayas, the glacial lake is mostly cold all through the year.
With day time temperatures varying between 12 to 20 degrees Celsius, summers can be pleasant. Nights can be unusually cold with temperatures ranging from -2 to 6 degrees Celsius.
Winter is not the right time to venture to the frosty lake. The biting cold conditions can be unbearably cruel with temperatures going as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Best Time to visit Chandratal Lake
The route to the lake is open from June third-week to November first-week. The lake can be visited between Mid June to July, and September to Mid October.
The region is still covered in snow in June and July.
There are chances of road blockage, especially from Batal to Chandratal, from Manali side.
From Losar-Kunzum Pass to Chandratal, the route is notorious for its infamous water crossings on the Kunzum side.
The month of August brings downpour in the region. You may face some tricky situations in the lower regions of the route. As you venture into the upper terrains-Rohtang Pass from the Manali side and Kaza from Kinnaur side-the weather is much in control.
The month of September is the ideal time to hit on the Chandratal Lake trip. You are treated to the most breathtaking views, nothing short of a slice of heaven.
The beauty of the lake cupped between mountain scree and cirque on each side, and overlooking a carpet of blazing fall foliage, is simply unparalleled.
The temperatures start falling from October onwards. It starts to snow in October and temperatures fluctuate between near zero in the day time and to sub-zero degrees during the night time.
The route to the lake may close in October depending upon the amount of snowfall and severity of the cold.
When is Chandratal Lake open?
Because of its high-altitude location and hostile weather conditions, the lake remains inaccessible for almost 8 months in a year.
It is open from the 3rd week of June to November first week, for almost four and a half months. As mentioned earlier, the region may experience heavy snowfall in the month of October, leading to an early closure of the Chandratal Lake route.
SSeptember is the best time to celebrate the beauty of the region. The fall season enamours you with rainbow tones of Himalayan flora set against the infinite expanse of clear blue skies.
Attractions around Chandratal Lake
Kunzum Pass- This pass connects Spiti valley to Lahaul valley. The almost 9 km distance between Kunzum Pass and the lake can only be traversed by foot. You are floored by the splendid view of the Bara Shigri glacier from the pass.
Baralacha La pass- At an imposing altitude of 16,040 feet, Baralacha La is one of the most treacherous passes in the Spiti Valley. It is at a distance of 35.7 km from Chandratal lake. It takes a trek of 2-3 days from the lake to reach Baralacha La pass.
Suraj Tal- This sacred lake, also called the lake of Sun God, is the third-highest lake in India. Located under the Baralacha La Pass, you can explore this exquisite marvel of nature by undertaking a trek of 2 to 3 days from Chandratal lake.
Rohtang Pass- The distance between the Chandra Taal lake and Rohtang Pass is 36.7 km. This beautiful pass treats you to majestic views of Lahaul Valley, cryptic glaciers and massive peaks.
Bara Shigri Glacier- This 25 km long and 3 km wide icy jewel is the largest glacier in Himachal Pradesh. Cradled between the Himalayan mammoths of White Sail, Indrasen, Kulu Makalu and Parvati Peak, this spotless beauty feeds the largest river of Himachal Pradesh, the Chenab river. Located in the Chandra valley of Lahaul district, the glacier is at a distance of 4 km from Batal and 40 km from Rohtang Pass. It is believed that Chandratal lake originated from this glacier.
Chicham Village- The exquisite mountain village of Chicham is precariously nestled across a deep gorge. Famous for its unique architecture, it is at a distance of 37.8 km from the lake. As recent as October 2017, Chicham village was cut off from the rest of the world because of its dangerous location. In November 2017, Chicham bridge, the highest in Asia and perched at an elevation of 13,597 feet connected the obscure Chicham village to Kibber village though a motorable road.
Hampta Pass-Located at a distance of 34.5 km from the lake, Hampta Pass lies in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas at an elevation of 14,010 feet. Trekkers undertaking the Hampta Pass trek usually extend their itinerary by 1 to 2 days to visit the stunningly beautiful lake.
Key Monastery- At 13,688 feet above sea level, the beautifully calm Tibetan Monastery is perched on a hilltop in Spiti Valley. It is at a distance of 42.5 km from the lake. You meditate, whisper Buddhist chants, enjoy splendid views of the Spiti river and learn the fascinating history of the place while sipping the therapeutic herbal tea at this magical site.